Colin Lyne – Wharf Cabin

So, this is how it all ends. In my very own haunted house on the coast. 

The wealthy have always loved understatement. “Wharf Cabin” is in fact a rambling nineteenth century affair. Like most of the houses here, it’s made of wood, so in that respect I suppose you could say that the millionaires of Bolinas all live in cabins. 

I’ve never bothered to count how many bedrooms there are. Nor have I bothered much to explore the third floor. I think that’s where the ghost spends most of her time. Her name is Keiko. She was a housemaid here in the 1910s and, from what I can tell from my dealings with her, obviously never got to speak good English. 

The place is even more dilapidated than when I bought it. Paint peels off the walls and the chandeliers are dusty. Some of the rooms are littered with broken glass and the remains of shattered vases. Keiko and I have had our fallings out.  

From the outside it’s quite idyllic. The garden stretches down to a rocky cove. The bright sun dances on the oleanders and through the palms and secuoyas you can glimpse the intense blue of the Pacific…

…Anyway, now I must get everything ready. The note will be brief. Just “Sorry about the mess.” My mother would have liked that. Although she didn’t care too much about her children, she did sometimes say motherly things to us. “Time for bed”, “Eat your vegetables”, “Don’t make a mess.”

She was blonde and attractive, in a destructive way. For her California was a huge department store and the men she met were the clothes in it – to be picked up and discarded as soon as she tired of them. None of them lasted more than two years. We children were incidental inconveniences. She never said how many of us there were altogether. Several of her partners must have been decent guys because I heard in later years that they had decided their offspring would do better with them. I guess my mother was fine with that – she never had much money.

That closed door in a motel in Montana was an experience that never left me. My biographers will no doubt say that’s where my problems started. I was seven and my little sister three. My mother went off one morning and left us alone. It was winter. The door handle on the inside was a big, shiny sphere – I distinctly remember seeing my contorted face reflected in it. When she didn’t come back, I tried for hours to turn it, but my fingers just slipped on the cold surface. We shouted and banged but nobody came. On the second day I finally got it open. 

My sister and I made it through the snow to a gas station across the road. The guy there gave us chocolate bars and some ice cream.

Our mother came back a few days later and took us back to California.

Seen from the outside, you would say that things have always gone my way. The golden blond hair impressed from a young age and when it grew long, and I grew tall I was noticed by everyone. Even more so because I wrote. The 6’4”, mustachioed, sensitive guy who had a knack for putting words in a different order from other people. In San Francisco in the sixties they couldn’t get enough of me. The hippies, the musicians and the women – especially the women. 

The problem was that I didn’t trust any of them. Not the women when they said they loved me or the publishers when they raved about my work. I knew that before long they would want more out of me and that I wouldn’t be able to give it to them.

And so it was. One by one I left the women I met and married. And then the books dried up. 

For a few years I went through my washed-up alcoholic phase. This did nothing to hurt my reputation. The women kept coming and I was invited to the houses of the rich and famous. Ford Coppola loved having the drunken celebrity writer at his parties. The pool tables and pianos I smashed up could always be replaced. 

I thought Aiko was the answer. After we married, we escaped to Japan. She promised to put my house in order – haha! If only she could see me now! I learnt to write Haikus and we had some happy moments.

After a year or two I convinced her to come back to Montana with me. We got a small ranch in Bozeman. I taught her how to fish for trout and we settled into a quiet life. Yes, Aiko was perfect for me. She even put me in touch with my daughter from my first marriage and now the three of us get on well.

A month ago, I left the two of them in Bozeman, and I came here to Bolinas.

I bought this house a while back. Aiko wanted me to sell it. Nobody wants to stay here, on account of it being haunted. I agreed to go ahead with the sale, but I can’t face the paper work.

After I got here, the phone kept ringing for the first week or two, so I tore it out of the wall. 

The truth is that I’m in love with Keiko, the ghost. I could never tell Aiko. She doesn’t deserve that.

I’ve never been a gun person, but I know the .44 won’t let me down. Yesterday I was out back practicing with empty whisky bottles. Not that any accuracy will be required. It’ll be a brief second and then my new love and I will stay here forever. In our cabin by the sea.

Richard Brautigan committed suicide in Bolinas, California on 16th September 1984.

Published by Ian

Music maker and story teller.

8 thoughts on “Colin Lyne – Wharf Cabin

  1. A haunting tale indeed as the narrator reflects on the past whilst contemplating his own death. I like the breadth of his story i.e.talking about his other homes and places he has lived, it painted a believable picture of a successful man who had become disillusioned with his lot. I think the piece would benefit for a little more editing to tidy it up As for the story, I am left unsure what his fascination is with the ghost and how that relates to his current state of mind. A little hard to read for me, as a friend killed himself in his holiday home less than a year ago, leaving his family back home bereft and at a loss as to why?

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    1. Thanks Ian. I agree that it could do with a bit of tidying up. The flow could be improved – maybe tried to cover too much ground in a short space. The ghost was from scraps of stuff I found about his house in Bolinas – it was haunted but there was no mention of a relationship! Maybe the idea of just a deep black depression – which is probably nearer the truth – was too bleak and the fact he died for love made it lighter. Much of the rest of the story likewise is partly made up. So sorry to hear about your friend.

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  2. I was intrigued by your story. I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with Richard Brautigan. After reading your piece, I did some research. I would have liked to find out more about the ‘ghost’. I realize the general outline for submissions is 500-1000 words and also that you tried – and succeeded – to capture the spirit of the author. Judging by the things I read online about Brautigan, your version captured him very well and it is obviously intentional that you leave a lot to the imagination. Thanks for filling in the gaps in my cultural horizon.

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  3. Thanks Britta. Glad you enjoyed it. If writing is about going into different worlds, Brautigan’s is certainly an interesting one. He was very much in fashion when I was at university. His writing is totally original – often quite weird but very beautiful. My interest was reignited when a young Spanish writer – friend of my son – wrote a book and quoted Brautigan as an inspiration. He is Lucas Vidaur:
    https://www.mondosonoro.com/criticas/libros-novedades/el-tejido-de-las-cosas/
    This book is also amazing.
    As I mentioned above, the “relationship” with the ghost is just to give some depth.
    My favourite book of Brautigan’s was Trout Fishing in American but they’re all great.

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  4. Well that was à good read . Totally unaware of the réal person behind your story till the end. I loved the history of the awful neglected child who then could never connect or commit to anything réal. You really felt fir those children locked in the motel room. However I thought the ghost was just that really and there was little that suggested why his relationship with it was so strong and destructive .

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    1. Thanks for the positive comments Jean! I suppose in my mind the ghost was of no more importance to him than all the other relationships he had and failed to maintain – and just another excuse to end it all. The story was written with just shreds of stuff from wikipedia etc. so makes no attempt to be biographical.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your son’s friend’s details and Richard Brautigan – a new name for me too. It’s good to read a story where readers question what is real and what is imagined or remembered. One sensitivity point for consideration is that nowadays the preference is not to use ‘committed suicide’ since it has been a crime in the past, but now isn’t. People with suicide in their families might prefer other terms, e.g. died by suicide, took their own life, ended their life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alex. One of the advantages of a short story is you can leave plenty out for the reader to fill in. Good point about the issue of suicide – “took his own life sounds” sounds more appropriate.

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